Suggestions for streaming internet to TV

After the Olympics debacle, I decided that I want to stream internet to my 65" TV at a decent resolution.

Is it as simple as hooking up my crappy laptop via HDMI out or is there a more permanent solution like a HTPC or Roku box, etc? I also have a PS3 for Netflix, but the browser sucks.

I’ve experimented a bit, and for pure net video, a HTPC or HDMI-connected laptop works best for me. Console browsers are ultimately not workable and limited. As I understand them, Roku boxes (and the $100 set box genre) are client-based streamers and not able to handle everything you can get via a browser.

Thanks. Does the video card in the laptop or HTPC matter for better resolution (ie: 720/1080) etc.?

The video card needs to be able to support your chosen T.V. resolution, but almost any non-ancient laptop should be able to handle 1080. Check in your display settings of the laptop you have in mind.

Simple internet browsing is not a high-demand video function. The reason to go HTPC is the T.V. tuner to allow for over-the-air reception. You can, of course, buy a tuner adapter for your laptop.

Just remember that Windows UI doesn’t play nicely with a 65" 1080p screen from 15’ away. If you mess around with the DPI settings, for instance, you end up screwing up programs not designed to accommodate; zooming in web browsers tends to mess with page layouts terribly, etc. If you don’t do this, text is oftentimes unreadable.

I do it, but it’s obnoxious. It’s my desktop just sitting next to the TV stand with an HDMI cable and a little batch file to switch the display and sound over to HDMI when I press a key-combo. I typically get everything setup except for pressing play on whatever I want to watch before doing the switch; trying to manipulate Windows at that size and distance is an absolute bitch.

My little Acer netbook can handle 1080i output, and it’s only 3 years old, so I’m betting you can get a decently old laptop to do the same.

As for the Netflix browser, we tend to make all of our selections on our laptops/devices, and then watch them from the queue on our Xbox. Selecting stuff to watch on the Xbox is not a good experience, and we avoid it at all costs.

Define “streaming internet”? If you mean Netflix/Hulu, any of a zillion devices will work way better than a laptop. If you mean random H-264/Xvid files that you’ve picked up on the internet (that Louis CK concert, for instance), there are lots of good DLNA client options. If you mean something else, then it gets ickier.

Yeah, it’s the ickier option. Netflix and video files go on the PS3 or Media Server.

I’m looking to stream stuff like pre-season football straight off the web, etc.

Just think of your TV as a giant monitor. Anything you can do with a monitor can be done with today’s TVs. Your compuer or laptop will treat it as a giant monitor.

Armando’s point is probably the biggest thing to keep in mind: it’s a giant monitor with really bad pixel density. Control scheme is the other big thing: wireless keyboard, Windows media remote, etc.

Yeah, on occasion I’ve plugged my laptop’s HDMI out into the receiver’s HDMI in to watch streams that way. It works… better than nothing. Marginally.

(Realistically, the best control scheme is to have an HDMI cable long enough to reach back to your couch, and just use your laptop as a regular multi-monitor computer.)

The pixel density I guess is the issue I have. I know I can physically output my laptop to the tv, but it doesn’t look great which is why i’m wondering if there are other dedicated options out there for browser streaming. (which I realize is a more accurate description of what I want)

Not really. Boxee and GoogleTV would do it, but everybody blocks them. Your best bet is to permanently store a cheap laptop or HTPC next to the TV and get a wireless mouse+keyboard. That way you can experiment with XBMC too, which I personally find very rewarding.

Any solution would have to be software (e.g., a made-for-TV browser): the pixel density issue is on the TV end. A better computer or video card won’t fix that. Most internet-ready hardware devices come with custom software solutions (e.g., Apple TV or Roku) meant to address some of this.

For a PC, Google hits this browser. I haven’t tried it. Google hits also showed that some services are already blocking this browser.

Modern browsers offer full-page zoom. No need to use that… thing.

There shouldn’t be any issue with pixel density on the TV for video content – most people have TVs small enough, or far enough away from their normal sitting position, that they can’t fully resolve a 1080p signal anyway.

The problem is that most of the video content that you need to stream over a browser is really, really bad-quality. If it’s a high-quality video source, there’s already a way to watch it on th e360.

Pixel density issues in terms of fonts and other html content that are a part of navigating to said video content.

Right, the UI sucks; I thought you were saying the video quality would inherently look bad on TVs.

(That’s why I like the laptop direct control approach – do all your nav in your browser, fling it to the other monitor (aka the TV), and then click the full-screen button. Viola.)

I spent the morning surfing the AVS forum for HTPC info. Now I know why I can only go there about once a year. My head is still pounding from info overload.

I’ve never seen XBMC before.

Right now I have an HTPC behind the TV that I control with a wireless keyboard/trackball combo. When I (or, more often, my 7 year old) want to watch something I have to manually navigate through Windows Explorer to find the file and play it with VLC.

XBMC looks awesome. Can’t wait to try it out.

Thanks for the tip!

Wow, you have a HTPC and you’re using a mouse+keyboard with VLC? XBMC is going to blow your mind, man.

I suggest picking up an el-cheapo microsoft MCE remote control and USB receiver as well. Or alternatively, Flirc is supposed to be really cool, and can work with your existing remote.